Wednesday, April 28, 2010

New Arrivals in Tradition of East Hampton

Since I began writing about East Hampton Past, dozens of people have very kindly told me how much they enjoy reading about our Town’s history. Whether it is in Stop & Shop (how soon we forget Shaw's), restaurants such as Angelico's or Governor's Tavern, at town meetings, or church, I appreciate the comments and positive feedback and will keep writing.

On April 12th, the Laurel Ridge Association invited me to speak about EH since so many were new to our Town. As you may know, Laurel Ridge is an over 55 community located on the East side of the Lake on Route 66 and is situated near Bear Swamp.

This was a very enjoyable evening and I’m pleased that this engaging group chose EH as their home. Since the early 1700s, tremendously talented people have settled here. From my prospective, these transplants are equally able and given the nod, will contribute to the vitality and enhancement of our Town. So, welcome!

Topics that evening included a discussion on the founding of the bell industry by William Barton in 1808, and its importance to many other industries including Henry Ford's Model T. I also discussed the the creation of Chatham and some of our illustrious citizens such as Gov. William O’Neill. We all remember fondly our friend and neighbor Bill O’Neill, but we forget, he almost never became Governor. Unsuccessful in the 1960 and 1962 elections, with 1964s postponed due to a reapportionment stalemate, Bill had little desire to run again in 1966! Only significant arm-twisting prevailed and from there, his meteoric rise to the Governorship.

East Hampton Fife & Drum Corp Major, Morris Lanzi, then State Representative and Majority Leader, William O'Neill, and Governor Ella T. Grasso at the signing of Legislation making Yankee Doodle Connecticut's State Song. In background, members of the Fife & Drum Corp including Thomas Distefano.

Fielding many questions that evening, one of which I wanted to expand upon was how did Hurd State Park come about? Named for an early family that settled at Knowles Landing at Middle Haddam (bottom of Knowles Road) the now 900 acre park, located off of Rt. 151 as you leave Middle Haddam towards Moodus and situated on the Connecticut River.

Among the first land acquisitions by the newly established Parks and Forest Commission in 1915, Hurd State Park began with 28 acres purchased from Frederick and Sophia Colson in 1916. Apparently after threats of litigation, the Eureka Flint & Spar, a New Jersey company, sold 90 additional acres to the State in 1923. Eureka had planned on mining Feldspar from the site as it did at other quarries in Chatham, Haddam & Middletown, but State pressure changed management’s minds.

Today the Park has scenic and panoramic views of the Connecticut River Valley and numerous hiking trails and recreational opportunities – all for free!

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